By Antoinette Abbah.
Sickle cell experts have emphasised the importance of early detection of sickle cell disease through newborn screening and point-of-care testing. They stressed that early diagnosis enables life-saving treatment and significantly reduces suffering for individuals living with sickle cell disease.
Sickle Cell Disease is a lifelong condition causing significant harm if not detected early. It’s a group of inherited red blood cell disorders affecting hemoglobin, the protein carrying oxygen in the body.
Annually, about 240,000 children are born with the condition in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in Ghana, approximately 20,000 children are affected. The Sickle Gene Action Foundation of Ghana has therefore been established to build a network of Government, NGOs, Opinion Leaders, and Sickle Cell warriors to manage the condition.
This partnership aims to expand efforts against sickle cell disease on national, regional, and international levels.
Executive Director of the Foundation, Awo Twumasi, emphasised the need for reforms and legislative changes to enhance sickle disease management in healthcare centers. She also called for a change in some legislations to address gaps in sickle disease management at the various healthcare centers.
“Our goal is to adopt a proactive strategy in addressing the gaps. We need relevant measures such as public health intervention relating to genetic counselling and also first-class clinical care. We need legislative change; we need to lobby our leaders to make sure that they can help us with the fight but also easier for us to access the resources we need. So, this is a call to action, this is our fight, we have to take charge to win this fight against preventable diseases and illnesses,’’ she added.
Pediatrician at the Child Health Department, Greater Accra Regional Hospital, Dr. Yvonne Brew, also called for the decentralisation of Hydroxyurea in all Health Centers in Ghana to make the drug accessible.
“The beauty of texting these children early is that interventions can be started early to reduce or eliminate them dying before the fifth birthday. We want Hydroxyurea to be decentralized. I don’t see why children with sickle cell have to travel from Abokobi or Nkwanta all the way to my hospital. It’s time we all look at it,” she noted.
The fight against sickle cell disease is a shared responsibility. It is a call to unite and push for tangible changes that will alleviate the burden faced by thousands in our communities.